The View of Her Tomatoes

Some of the biggest conflicts of our marriage come when Kris and I cannot agree on where to place things. We’ve had huge rows about seating arrangements for dinner parties, for example. And when we receive our furniture shipment later today, I’m sure there’ll be some tension as we try to find the ideal layout.

But for now, this moment, we’re fighting over blueberries.

Kris doesn’t really like blueberries. And because I don’t do as much as I should to help in the garden, she’s leaving the current blueberry project to me. I tore out three of our blueberries (the 25-year-old plants the neighbors gave us) as well as our two gooseberries. Yesterday we bought three new plants, and we have two more coming by mail. It’s up to me to decide where to plant them.

In theory, I’d simply plant them where the old plants were. But the old plants didn’t thrive. Part of this was because I didn’t water them enough, but there’s also the problem that they didn’t get enough sun, and that they were spaced too closely together.

I’d like to create a dedicated blueberry patch in our yard. This morning, I walked through the north side, looking for a place to put the plants. There really isn’t one. The north side gets full sun, but it’s packed with fruit trees. It’s our orchard. There’s really no place to put blueberries.

Fortunately, there are a couple of spaces on the south side of the house that might work. The best spot, in my opinion, is running east-to-west next to the vegetable garden. There’s plenty of space, it gets full sun, and I could alter the soil as needed.

Unfortunately, Kris hates this idea. For some reason, she refuses to let me put the blueberries there. We’ve been butting heads now for an hour.

It occurred to me that I didn’t know exactly why she didn’t want me to plant the blueberries between the house and the vegetable garden. So I asked her. And here was her reply: “They’ll block my view,” she said.

“View of what?” I asked.

“The view of my tomatoes,” she said. “I like to look out and admire them. I try to make the garden beautiful and pleasing to me. I put a lot of work into it. I want to be able to see it.”


Far be it from me to deprive Kris of a view of her tomatoes. She does a lot of work around here, and she deserves to be able to see the fruits of her labor. (Literally.) I’ll find someplace else to put the blueberries. (I’ll probably put them in the spots we had originally designated.)

But when the Man Room furniture comes in a couple of hours, I’m going to be assertive! Just once in our 20+ years together, I’d like to win one of these arguments about where to put things. Kris can’t always be right — can she?

Small Rodents in Paradise

Hey!” Kris whined when we returned from lunch this afternoon. We had just parked the Mini Cooper in the garage, and she’d stepped up to the potting shed to grab a bag of birdseed.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. I was trying to put away some of my camping supplies from last weekend’s hike to Opal Creek.

“Come look,” she said. She pointed to the ground.

On the floor of the potting shed was a bag of birdseed. I expected that. But on top of the birdseed was a bag of peanuts, a bag that had previously been stored on a nearby shelf. And the bag was no longer sealed. It had been torn open by tiny claws and teeth, and there was a sea of peanut shells scattered all around.

I laughed.

“It looks like some squirrel gave himself a belly ache,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Kris. “But look.” She pointed at several other objects on the ground. The squirrel (or squirrels) had managed to pull down all sorts of painting supplies from nearby shelves in an effort to get at the peanuts. They had also torn open a bag of rose fertilizer. (Did it smell like peanuts? Or maybe they were hoping to bury their peanuts there?)

As I left the garage to carry a bag of birdseed to the house, I was bombarded by acorns. One of our squirrels was above me in the oak, tossing nuts at me. (The squirrels do this all the time.) Was he protecting the bag of peanuts?

Kris and I always wonder why so many people view squirrels as pests. We think they’re cute little rodents. Just this morning I had commented on Walnut, up in his tree, chit-chit-chitting away while chomping on a walnut. But if they’re going to start doing commando raids on the food supply, we might have to re-think the “cute” label.

Painting the Porches

When we moved into Rosings Park, we knew we were in for more maintenance — we just didn’t realize how much. Our house in Canby wasn’t that big of a deal. It was a 1976 ranch-style home that had recently been updated. We didn’t need to do a lot of work on it.

Rosings, however, is over one hundred years old — and it shows it in lots of little ways.

One of those ways is the paint. Apparently it had been painted not long before we purchased it (three years before?), but that didn’t really matter. According to the painters we had bid our recent project, it hadn’t been properly painted in decades. (Maybe they say that to all prospective clients, though.) Layers of paint had been added one on top of the other. Nobody’d done a proper job of stripping things.

To make matters worse, when the roof was done before we moved in, somebody took a shortcut with the flashing. As a result, there were two spots on the corners where water had literally been seeping into the walls for the last five years. Not good. Aside from other potential damage, the moisture had caused the paint to peel:

Kris and I considered painting the house ourselves, but not seriously. Kris is busy, and so am I. Technically, I’m home all day, but in reality, I’m working. Plus, this sounded like a bitch of a job. Instead, we hired Leo and Mike to do the job for us. (We’d used them for another job earlier in the spring.)

It took them over a week, but when they’d finished, our house had been scraped and painted. It looks brand new!

When we hired them, we said that we would paint the porches. It took us a while to get around to it, but finally last weekend, Kris and I made the time.

The back porch (the “smoking porch”) was brown before. Now it’s a steely blue. The front porch, too, is a steely blue instead of its former grey.

“I think we’re almost done for the year,” Kris said when we’d finished painting.

“I hope so,” I said. “We’ve put a lot of time and money into the house so far. I’m ready to take a break.”

This is how I felt the year after we moved in, the year we had the bathroom remodeled. We spent so much time and money on it that I wanted to take the next year off from any projects. No projects in 2010! — that’s my motto.

But we’re not done with 2009 yet. We still have the “Man Room” to furnish. That won’t take much time, but it’s going to take some money…

Noises Off!

Our neighborhood isn’t exactly quiet. Well, it’s quiet most of the time, I guess. But on evenings and weekends, there are a lot of people outside laughing and shouting.

There are also a lot of people playing their music. The renters in the brown house across the street like to blare KGON and its classic rock. Curt and Tammy next door like contemporary country music. Behind us, Harvey and his girls tend toward oldies.

In a way, it’s fun when one of our neighbors has the music on at high volume. I wouldn’t normally choose to listen to any of these types of music, but I don’t hate them. Plus I feel like this gives me a glimpse into their world.

I even contribute to the din from time-to-time. If I’m working in the yard, I’ll turn up the workshop stereo. My music of choice is usually the two-disc Johnny Cash anthology (though I’ll often play big band or new wave or Indigo Girls). I’m sure the neighbors are sick of “Five Feet High and Rising” by now.

All is well and good in our noisy little world. Or was good until the other neighbors behind us joined the fray.

We think that the little red house is being rented by some college students. They seemed to move in during the late spring, during which they held loud bonfire parties well past bedtime on weeknights. No big deal. Easy enough to wear earplugs.

Now, though, they’ve found an even more annoying habit. On weekdays (and weekdays only), they begin playing their music loudly at about 9am. They keep the volume cranked until into the evening. This wouldn’t be so bad except for two things:

  • The volume is much higher than anyone else in the neighborhood uses, and
  • They listen to gangsta rap and bad hip-hop.

Ugh. Call me an old man, but this is like a torture one might devise for terrorists. Fortunately, I spend my days up at the office. If I were working from home, I might have knocked on their door to complain by now. I still may have to do so. We’ll see.

Or maybe I could make a request. Everything would be fine if they’d just play Johnny Cash.

Nemo the Hunter

As much as I make fun of little Nemo, I have to admit he’s our fiercest hunter. Mostly he hunts his sister Toto (which makes her hiss) and his brother Max (which makes him growl). But he also likes to hunt other critters, especially baby birds.

Perhaps his favorite prey, however, is the squirrel that lives in the walnut tree. He hasn’t caught Walnut yet, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.

Just now, for example, I was sitting at the table eating my raisin bran, when I heard Walnut begin his awful racket. He sounds like a chicken. I looked out the window, and sure enough: There was Nemo chasing Walnut up the tree. What cracked me up, though, was that Walnut paused halfway up to let Nemo scoot right by him. “Psych!”

Nemo and Walnut
Blurriness is from the old glass in the window

I’m not sure Nemo is actually serious in his squirrel hunting, though. And I’m not sure that Walnut is serious about escaping. The pair of them spent about five minutes in a cat-and-mouse game (well, cat-and-squirrel, I guess), but neither seemed willing to follow through.

Walnut, for example, could have dashed up the tree at any time. He didn’t. Instead, he’d often creep closer and closer to Nemo. For his part, Nemo could have tagged Walnut during a couple of these moments — he was easily within paws’ reach — but he didn’t. Nemo and Walnut were content to jockey for position.

Nemo and Walnut
Blurriness is from the old glass in the window

What broke this stalemate? One of our resident crows* came along to break things up. He landed on a nearby branch and began to caw at the two combatants. (Or are they playmates?) Nemo decided that he was no match for squirrel and crow, so he retreated to the picnic table.

Walnut actually seemed disappointed. He came down to scold Nemo from close range. It didn’t have any effect. When the crow left, Nemo came into the house. He’s now sound asleep upstairs on the bed. (Which is where he usually is…)

* This year, Rosings Park is home to a family of crows. Or something. These crows don’t behave like any crows we’ve ever seen. They come down to eat at the feeder. They drink from the birdbath. They interact with the other birds. And, as I just mentioned, they play a role in the goings-on around the yard. (I mean, really: Breaking up a fight between a cat and a squirrel? Why?) We have no idea how long the crows will stick around, but it’s fun to have them.